Following our successful visit to Tilbrook Estate, I’ve been keeping an eye out for more group buying deals to wineries. That probably puts me right up there when it comes to be tight-fisted but we’ve found that they are a great way to get us out of the house for a morning, as well as being a good way to check out some new cellar doors.
Our deal for McLaren Vale’s Maximus Wines included the usual wine offerings as well as a gourmet pie lunch. We’d met some people a little while back who had said good things about their experience at Maximus so we were looking forward to it. Also – PIE!
I’d made the mistake of not double-checking what food was available for Master 5. Even though we usually travel with food for him, extra options are always good. It turned out that gourmet pie was available which he decided he didn’t want. Only to turn around 10 minutes later and decide he did want it after all. That was a relief! We’re lucky he eats a lot and he’s not a picky eater – though Maximus Wines’ Shelley did say that if they have notice they can rustle up a cheese toastie for smaller guests.
While waiting for our pies, we tasted through the wines with our favourites ranging from the Grenache Tempranillo Rosé, the very savoury Mourvèdre, a juicy Graciano and the Cabernet Sauvignon. This is definitely red wine territory – when we were there there was just the one white at the cellar door, a Pinot Gris.
Then it was pie time! I had chicken and white wine, Andy had beef and red wine. You can see I tucked in very enthusiastically before realising I should have taken a photo … ooops!
The pies were lovely, and thanks to our deal, came with a glass of wine so we were able to enjoy an almost leisurely lunch while all three of us munched away. The cellar door has floor to ceiling windows so you can look out at McLaren Vale while you eat. It would be perfect in miserable weather!
After lunch we picked out a few wines and also bought a bottle of gin, as Maximus is also home to Settlers Spirits. If you’re so inclined you can do a spirits tasting while you’re there and they have just released the G and Tea Breakfast Gin, for something different.
Another successful day out and Maximus is a stop I’d recommend for anyone who loves their reds.
Alere is the new restaurant at Flinders Uni which is being run by Blanco, the same company that looks after the well-regarded Botanic Gardens Restaurant. It’s also participating in this year’s Festival of Food but for many people it will be a tricky venue to try out, as it’s only open Monday to Friday until 5pm.
Lucky for me that I control my work hours (I would say ‘I am my own boss’ but when you work to others’ deadlines, that’s not the case!) and I have a handful of friends who work varying flavours of part time. So for one day, my friend and I were able to play at being ‘ladies who lunch’.
Booking ended up being something of an up-and-down process. Alere does offer on-line bookings through its website, but because I was booking Festival of Food I decided I would rather speak to a person. So I rang and left a message and never heard back. And then I started to think that maybe I should have booked online but … if I book online now, will I end up with two bookings. So I rang again, left a message, missed the return phone call and eventually managed to confirm the table. Phew!
If you’re not familiar with the sprawling campus that is Flinders Uni then Alere might be a bit tricky to find. Basically you drive, drive, drive for MUCH longer than you expect (I was expecting to be spat back out on to Shepherd’s Hill Road at any moment!) but finally you reach The Hub. The parking which is available is 2 hour ticket parking which is OK but not ideal if you are after a particularly leisurely lunch.
Alere is set up on the second level of The Hub with floor to ceiling windows that flood the restaurant with the most beautiful light and afford diners with great views across the university and hills. If you’re so inclined, you can spend lunch people-watching the students below!
Seated, the most important part of the meal – reading the wine list – commenced. And finally – HOORAY! An interesting and well-curated wine list that is not flooded with NZ Sauvignon Blanc! There might be two SavvyBs on the wine list but they are both local and they sit alongside gems such as the Lino Ramble Ludo Fiano, the CRFT Grüner Veltliner and the Unico Zelo Dolcetto. I was also impressed to see that a hefty portion of the wine list is available by the glass in either 100mL or 150mL pours. This all makes me soooo happy. Really really happy.
My dining companion prefers whites with a touch of sweetness to them and I knew that the only Riesling available by the glass was dry – so we asked our waiter for a suggestion. Sadly, she had none (I’m not suggesting Alere stick a moscato on the wine list but perhaps ensure the staff can point a customer in the right direction) BUT when I said I was having the Lino Ramble Fiano she enthusiastically said she had tried it and it was very nice. This was enough to sway my friend into trying it and it was a success all round!
With Festival of Food we only had to pick our main courses. I’d decided to go for the spaghetti with poached prawns while my friend chose the slow cooked shoulder of lamb, with cracked freekeh, mint, tahini and pickled cucumber.
We started with the delicious sourdough and followed this with our entrée tasting plates. From the top, a soup, grilled haloumi and finally Alere’s take on vitello tonnato. All delicious – which really says something because vitello tonnato is normally something I go out of my way to avoid! If I wanted to be picky, I’d suggest the confit tomato atop the haloumi was a bit large, but really – just eat the veal!
Main courses arrived and it was depressingly obvious that my friend had ‘won’ in the menu selection stakes. While my prawns and spaghetti were delicious (perfectly cooked pasta, a good balance of heat from the chilli, plenty of prawns), the lamb took the biscuit. It was so good! The meat was so soft, tender and falling apart it was like eating deliciously spiced lamb puree (but in a good way – still with texture). My friend generously offered me a taste of the gorgeous looking flatbread, but because I’m such a nice person I declined. (It’s possible I declined because I’m such a pig I would have hoovered loads of it up … who knows). She loved it!
So there we were – perfectly full and happy little campers and in no need whatsoever of dessert (we may have also had one eye on the clock). So out came our petit four (no picture, sorry) – a fried ricotta doughnut, saffron poached pear and … a truffled honey cream. So the tiny plate smelt of truffle. I love truffles. But guess what? It turns out I totally do not love truffles when they’re in my dessert. The smell was, frankly, awful. And while the little doughnut was lovely, the truffled cream was one of the most really quite unpleasant things I’ve eaten (the worst still remains the ‘seven textures of milk’ dessert I ate as part of a degustation once …).
When our waiter picked up our plates she asked us how we’d enjoyed it. As my face is an open book, there is no point in me sugar-coating these kinds of opinions. So I said I didn’t like it and asked what the general feedback was on it. Our waiter did say that it does rather tend to divide people’s opinion.
And I think in many ways that’s what good, interesting cooking should do. No one is going to like everything, all the time and as a cook or chef you might as well see if you can push some buttons. You can stick a chocolate cake with chocolate sauce and vanilla icecream on a menu and as long as it’s good, no one is ever going to complain. But what are you proving? People like chocolate … well, we kind of knew that! So absolutely hats off to the kitchen team at Alere for taking a risk. I didn’t like it – but so what? I tried it in a massively low-risk environment and now know that perhaps desserts with truffles are not for me. Others may love it and I appreciate trying something new.
So Alere gets a massive thumbs up from me (both for food, service, and the chic styling that includes mustard!). Finding it is a bit of an adventure, and there are a few service niggles but it is also fantastic to have somewhere so good in the southern suburbs and I’m very jealous of the university students and staff.
I’m looking forward to my next visit.
The Hub, Level 2
Bedford Park 5042
phone: 08 8277 7186
disclaimer: I was sent the current release Vintage Ale by Coopers
If you’ve been reading for a while (as in … years) you’ll know that I’ve been incredibly lucky to be a guest at quite a few consecutive Coopers Vintage Ale launch lunches. Unfortunately, this year I had a forced hiatus. The lunch was held within 48 hours of a big work deadline. I had no choice but to decline. I knew that if I rsvped ‘yes’ come lunch day I’d be a wreck – torn between honouring that rsvp and the fact that I had so much work to do. I also knew that if I rsvped ‘no’ I would have wrapped up the work and be kicking myself.
Real life was actually somewhere between the two – but luckily for me team Coopers sent me some of the Vintage Ale to sample. Hard life.
So – here we are in the run up to Father’s Day. Yep – if you forgot – it’s Sunday. Eek. And if the dads in your life like beer – well, you can read my review of the Vintage Ale and see if it sounds like your dad’s thing.
If it’s not your dad’s thing, then this might be. Dr Tim Cooper, Managing Director and Chief Brewer, has turned 60 and, to celebrate, Coopers has released a limited run of Dr Tim’s Traditional Ale in 440mL cans – at the same price as the usual 375mL cans.
OK – on to how the 2016 vintage ale is looking!
The Vintage Ale
The beer is amber and really quite dense in colour. The bottle fermentation means that like Coopers’ other bottle-conditioned ales, there is sediment. If you prefer it distributed through the beer, it won’t be crystal clear in appearance.
The nose isn’t particularly strong – think subtle hoppiness and citrus. But in the mouth it’s a lot more forward. The extra alcohol (the beer is 7.5% abv) gives it extra weight and it has a lovely creaminess about it. If you’re a stout drinker, you’ll recognise the mouthfeel.
It’s fruity and citrussy but it has a lovely bitterness to it. In order to produce a beer that can age Coopers has to tread a fine line with the hops. If you like that kind of hoppy bitterness in a beer, then you will like the Vintage Ale but I definitely recommend you drink it young. Over time, those hops back off and the beer ends up seeming sweeter.
I’ve been privileged enough to try enough back vintages of Coopers Vintage Ale to know that I like them young. To me, the 2016 is almost like drinking a lighter bodied and flavoured stout. It’s very approachable and (I think – I like hoppy beer) delicious.
So if you do buy the dad in your life some – just make sure he shares it!